Sunday, 24 November 2013

Do they KNOW WHY it's Christmas?

Were you one of the people who were glued to the ‘Dr Who’ celebrations last night ? I have to confess that I’ve never been a great fan, although we did watch it in the early days when our children joined thousands of others hiding from the Daleks behind the sofa!

But that early exposure didn’t prepare me for the 50th anniversary episode that I watched because I wanted to be an intelligent grandmother – among other things! Well when I say ‘watched’, I flicked in and out, and possibly because of that, didn’t have a clue what was happening.  That was a pity because I’d like to have known, and for those ‘on the inside’ it was obviously a great experience.

Someone at church today remarked that this episode of Dr Who was reflecting the war between good and evil and the need for a saviour. That may or may not be the case – as I said I only watched bits of it - but it did strike me that Christianity and what Christmas is really all about, is probably as much of a mystery to the people who throng the streets for their Christmas shopping, as Dr who is to me. If you asked the lady queuing up in Boots for her ‘three for two’ special offer, what Christmas means to her, I would be surprised to hear her say ‘Well there is a battle between good and evil and we need a Saviour!’

Did people understand it better in earlier years? When I went to visit the CLC bookshop in the City of London’s  Ave Maria  Lane,  I was fascinated to find Christian references were everywhere . Amen Corner, Paternoster Square, the Shepherd with his sheep, the towering grandeur of St. Pauls  – over and over again there were signs to remind passers by of the way Christianity once shaped our land. 

CLC is one of the larger bookstores and sited where it is among banks and officers, it’s a destination shop, visited by people out of the centre of London who phone ahead to check that certain books are in stock. My other destination that day was the Church House bookshop, tucked away off Dean’s Yard, with the magnificence of Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament close by. That too is a place for clergy and others ‘in the know’ to find books related to their ministry.

And yet for the thousands of tourists thronging around near both sites, the fact that ‘Unto us a child is born’ and all that springs from that, is not part of their Christmas musings. What a privilege to have such news to share! The question is ‘Do they KNOW about the real Christmas’ and if not, do we care enough to find a way  to tell them? Or does Christmas become to us the sales figures at the end of  the day and little else?

Monday, 18 November 2013

Because He gives, we give too

Christmas is the time for giving. We all know that. And as booksellers, publishers and authors we hope that people will buy their gifts from us, or that what we’ve written or published will form a book-shaped bulge in someone’s stocking or a glitter – wrapped gift under the tree.

Christmas is a time for giving. Giving money for good causes … we’ve just had the razzle dazzle of Children in Need and the generosity of British public was even greater than last year, in spite these times of worry about bills and jobs. That is all done on a grand scale of course. But what can the individuals in the Christian book trade do, with their limitations of staff, facilities and size, to demonstrate to those who’ve never understood it, that God gave the Greatest Gift of all?

The Corner Stone Bookshop in Cirencester is well situated to meet people right where they are. It has a wonderful facade, bow windows looking out onto Dollar Street, a few minutes walk from the Market Square. It forms part of the ministry of Cirencester Parish Church, which has one of the largest buildings for a parish church in England.

Housed in a building that is 350 years old, they serve delicious coffee and home made cakes, and they had an interesting experience one year when they gave something away. 

Every fortnight there is a Farmer’s Market right outside the church, and one Christmas, the team gave away mince pies to stall holders and shoppers alike. A small enough thing you might think. But people were amazed that the church was giving something away rather than asking for something.One stall holder, who hadn’t been to a service of any sort since he was at Eton,  was so impressed, that he decided that he needed to discover more about a church that wanted to give to him. He began to attend the church and now is a church warden, his attitude completely changed about faith and God.

There are other ways in which The Corner Stone gives to the people who visit the shop. When stock has been around for a while, manager Lynne Doolan draws people’s attention to these books by regularly offering some titles at reduced prices rather than using the 'sale or return' option with the publishers. When the bible reading notes are out of date she makes them available free to people who want to ‘taste and see’ whether they might be the notes that would help them on their faith journey.

I enjoyed my visit to Lynne and her team. Delicious cakes, an opportunity to sign books and a real vision to meet the needs of both the locals and the thousands of tourists who visit this lovely Cotswold town every year.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Discoverability - it works both ways

One of the things I've learned from exploring the very specialist world of Christian bookshops, is that names are very important. If you're in a strange town, and perhaps the shop you're looking for has been moved , even  if it is only a few yards up the road, or the shop numbers have altered, it can be very difficult to find what you're looking for. This is especially true if you have one eye on the traffic and the Satnav, and the other on the shop details. A shop definitely needs clear signage, but it is also helpful if the name  makes it clear what is sold there. In other words, it should 'do what it says on the tin.'

I had never visited Stroud before last week, despite the fact that my husband's family obviously originate from the area. I had the impression that it was quite a 'New Agey' sort of place as far as shops are concerned, and being on the small side, height wise, it took me a moment or two to locate the christian bookshop, even when the SatNav told me I'd arrived. Although The Centre has a hanging sign at right angles to the wall, if you're looking straight ahead, it isn't that easy to spot for a stranger.

However the locals obviously know where to find it, since the  shop has been in existence for over 30 years and has strong support from the local churches - some 60 of them from the wider area use it regularly. One of the titles I noticed were a row of 'Friendship' books - compilations of material that I have often seen on the bookshelves of my mother's friends. When I queried whether that sort of thing still sold, Alex Luffram, the recently appointed manager was very positive about them. He told me that 40 had been bought in for last Christmas and when he checked his stock lists there were only two left.

Most authors would be delighted to have two copies of a given title of theirs on the shelves, which all goes to point up another facet of 'discoverability'. Know who your core customers are and make sure that you cater for them [or in the case of authors, know who you're writing for.].

 I gather that some bookshop managers lean towards stocking titles that  they like themselves, but while it is easier to put your heart into selling books and other items that you feel really positive about, you won't sell many of the Puritan  writers if your local Christians favour  writers 

who appear mainly on the God Channel or vice versa. 'All things to all men to all men, that we may win some." Wasn't that how Paul saw it?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Discoverability - the KEY to Marketing for Bookshops and Authors

A church minister, whose church was in the town centre, was lamenting to a friend about the reluctance of so many men to come through the doors of his church. His friend waved a £10.00 note  under his nose . 'See that betting shop over there?"  he said "I want you to take this money and put a bet on the next race."

Thoroughly uncomfortable with the idea, the minister refused and his friend asked him why? 'Well I'm opposed to gambling on principle" he replied  "and I've never been into a betting shop. I haven't the first idea about how these places work, so I wouldn't know what to do. Besides, one of my congregation might see me go in and wonder what on earth I was up to!"

That is certainly the underlying reason why many men don't want to be seen going into church, but to a certain extent it can be true of christian bookshops too.Our bookshops are full of 'treasure' but sadly most people who walk past are totally unaware  of the riches within. They feel that they wouldn't know what to look for in a 'religious' shop, and would be embarrassed to ask. So how do we increase the 'discoverability' both of our shops and of the books and other items within them? 

One of the important things is the appearance of the outside of the shop. Clean windows, eye catching window displays, and attractive signage will draw people in. When I was looking for the Light bookshop in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, the bright modern name caught my eye as I drove past. Invited to 'come into the Light,' I felt welcome and intrigued. and the sight of gifts and cards made  it seem like a 'normal' shop and 'safe' to go  in.

Ruth Creighton has dreamed of running a christian bookshop for many years, and when her family had grown up she and her husband had a long search for suitable premises for before discovering their shop, built on what had been the foundation of a Congregational church on a High Street Shopping Parade.  Initially they lived in Gloucester but have now found a home in Stonehouse

Both Ruth and her husband Keith are no strangers to stepping out in faith. They are also involved with an unusual  ministry to truck drivers, which offers support, 'goody bags' friendship and a listening ear at the many truckstops up and down the country  

Ruth [pictured left] wishes they had room for a coffee shop, but the kettle is always full and ready for use, and her warm personality and listening ear means that many come into 'The Light' for a card or a gift, and leave having shared problems, joys and perhaps discovered a book which can help them to see life in a different light.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Marketing for the Technically Challenged and Totally Terrified - Bookshops,Bunyan and The Word

Bedford is a town you tend to pass as you drive up the A1 or M1. Which is a pity because apart from having a multi-racial and multi lingual population - 100 languages spoken at the last count - it is the place where one of the most famous books in the English language was written. 

Pilgrim's Progress, a book that is second only to the bible in sales terms, was penned in Bedford gaol, when John Bunyan was imprisoned there for preaching outside of the established church.

It's always a great encouragement to me as a writer, that although few if any of Bunyan's sermons are remembered, it is what he wrote in prison, for the entertainment of his children, at what was probably the lowest point of his life, that has lasted and changed lives. 

So 'Books' are certainly 'Us' in Bedford and there has been a Christian bookshop here since the late 1970's. Initially it was housed in a room above a local GP's garage,tucked down a country lane. How people found it is something of a mystery, but find  it they did and The Pilgrim Christian Bookshop flourished within the limitations of its situation.

After two or three years it was moved into Bedford, fairly near the centre. Staffed mainly by volunteers it had a coffee shop upstairs which served to draw people in. My father was one of those who helped out and during his stint on a Monday morning my sales increased by about 100% since he turned them all face out on arrival! 

Scripture Union took the bookshop over when the Karach's retired and moved to Norfolk, followed by Wesley Owen and then the Living Oasis chain. Sadly it closed then for a while, before Joy Denny felt God giving her the vision for restoring the witness that a bookshop can give to any town, and the Word Bookshop was opened in a popular shopping area near Bedford's beautiful Embankment.

It is a small shop but crammed with stock and supported by at least 30 of the churches in the town. Joy has had bookselling experience, since she managed The Pilgrim bookshop for some years in the early part of it's life, and perhaps this is why she has seen steady growth in support and sales. But she is also aware of where the needs are. 

While I was in the shop a lady was asking for a bible to give to someone who was doing an Alpha course at the King's Arms,one of the town's bigger churches. Rather that give her any version Joy rang the church office to ask what was being used in the course. Sadly the receptionist didn't know but, when pressed, promised to ring back.

 I wonder if that is a 'Tip for the top' for other shops. Perhaps a register of the bible versions used by the churches running Alpha in YOUR locality would help you to serve enquirers well. And the Gideon booklet of 'where to help when' is available from your local branch of the Gideons, to tuck inside and make this Book of Books more accessible to a new reader.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Marketing for the Technically Challenged and Totally Terrified - York a city of surprises

York is a fascinating city with sudden surprises around every corner. And one of these is the Barbican Bookshop.

A family business, it was started by Dick Rollinson in 1961. Originally it was housed in The Walmgate Bar, one of the four medieval entrances to the city, but moved to the City centre in 1967.The premises are an Aladdin's Cave of books housed in 10 rooms. 

A real browsers paradise, the Barbican bookshop specialises in books on York and Yorkshire, Aviation and Railways, Christian books and  second hand volumes on a huge variety of topics.

In 1972, Pickering and Co joined the firm, selling books in the Shambles for nearly 30 years until the lease ran out. The  two stores then merged on the Fossegate site in 2000.

Les Bingham was very happy to see a Lion author in the flesh, having stocked my books for many years. Although now semi-retired, I persuaded him to let me take his photo with my latest offerings, which he did with cheerful grace.

 In four years time the shop could be celebrating its Jubilee, although Les was cautious about counting on that, in these harsh economic times. How sad it would be if they didn't make it to that special anniversary. The Barbican bookshop is obviously needed in York. The Cathedral shop has hardly any Christian books and is certainly not a competitor. So what is needed is for the Christians in York and the surrounding area, to 'man the barricades'  by shopping there themselves and recommending this treasure store of good reading to their friends.
Lets say it all together ...

Monday, 14 October 2013

Marketing for the Technically Challenged and Totally Terrified!

The late Edward England, who published many significant Christian books during his time as Director of Religious Publishing at Hodder & Stoughton, often said to his authors:

"It isn't enough to have written a book. It isn't enough to have had it published. You have only succeeded when the writer, publisher and bookseller work together so that the book is written, published, bought, read and acted upon.'

That is obviously true, and sounds great - in theory! But where do you start? A drop of ink may make a million think, but unless the 'million' know that your book exists, the thoughts that you might hope to provoke aren't going to blossom.

 In these days of the social media, it's tempting to think that a few well aimed tweets, blogs and Facebook updates will do the job. But physical bookshops do still exist, thank God, and there's still no substitute for REAL people who are out there, passionate about sharing the good news that books can and still do change lives. 

With that it mind, my first stop on 'Marion's Meet and Greet' tour was Lincoln to visit Melanie Carroll at Unicorn Tree Books in Lincoln's covered market. 

Melanie is stocking my two new titles 'Dear God It's Me and It's urgent ' and 'It's Just You and Me Lord' in a bookshop that must be the only one to be in the form of an open square, with its walls, both facing inwards and outward, made of books!

Melanie stocks both general and christian books; new and second hand, as well as cards and other gift items. I didn't like to ask, but I assume that the 2nd hand books form the  outside walls, in case any passer by  fancies reading a book without paying for it!

And why The Unicorn Tree? This is the name of a group of tapestries, as famous as the Bayeux, featuring a Unicorn, which is, according to Melanie, a symbol of Christ.

A unique name for a unique shop, right where people are in the heart of Lincoln. Do visit it if you're in the area - you'll be glad that you did!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

From Russia with love

Our Russian Waterways cruise from St Petersburg to Moscow had been amazing. Now we were homeward bound in Moscow’s busy Domodedovo airport. But after 12 days of sight seeing, my husband’s trusty tripod stick, on which he could perch and take the weight off painful knees while waiting in line, was rather the worse for wear, and the line waiting for Security clearance seemed endless.

We had somehow become separated from the rest of our Tour Group and we were both wishing that we had asked about a wheelchair.  Unbeknownst to me, Gordon breathed a prayer for help. ‘Lord! Help! I don’t know how I’m going to manage this.’

A Russian lady in a blue jacket, who was standing behind us, commented on the long wait and we agreed that it was even worse than London. We turned to face forward again, silently estimating how much longer it would take us to reach the unsmiling individual who manned the barrier. Suddenly our acquaintance tapped Gordon on the shoulder. ‘Come’ she said firmly, beckoning us forward. We followed her cautiously, wondering if she was some undercover security official. She marched us firmly to the front of the queue, brushing the other passengers aside, said something to the Security clerk and we were ushered through the barrier like VIP’s.

Our next task was to get our Passports stamped by Emigration. There were two lines, one for Russian nationals and one for foreigners. You can guess which queue was the longest!  We had just joined it, resigning ourselves to another long wait, when our blue jacketed friend re-appeared. ‘Come’ she commanded. We demurred, pointing out that we had British passports, and the line to which she was attempting to usher us said ‘Russian passports only.’ But she would have none of our protests. Our fellow  travellers stepped aside meekly, and our passports were checked without comment. As we turned to thank her, I asked if angels always wore blue jackets in Moscow airport. But she was no longer there.

I have a feeling that God sent an angel to help us that day. What do you think? have you ever had a similar experience? If so I’d love to hear about it!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Mothers and Others

Maypole dancing and Morris men, ‘well-dressing’ and students who climb to the top of church towers to greet the dawn with song, before leaping into the river in Oxford and Cambridge, still happens here in England. Although this time of year can be cold and grey, we optimistically celebrate what we hope will be flower-filled days full of sunshine.

A village four or five miles from where we live, has its own Maypole and yesterday we saw the children preparing to dance around it, with garlands of flowers in their hair. An activity probably more popular with the girls than the boys! But the custom of leaving a bunch of flowers on a neighbour’s doorstep or in a porch to celebrate May Day was new to me … until this year. And it got me thinking. If I could give a bunch of flowers to someone who has made a significant difference to my life, who would I choose?

My mother would have been 100 years old this year, and she lived, always quiet and self contained but loving and giving, until she was almost 95. But I’ve been gifted with a second 'mother-figure' in my life. When my father’s job took him to Malaysia, at a time when there were no 12 hour flights to bring families together, and children tended to return ‘home’ for boarding school education when they reached their teens, I needed a ‘guardian’. Someone who would liase with the school and provide a home and family during the holidays.

My guardian, affectionately known as A.R, was a childhood friend of my mother, as unlike her as chalk is to cheese, but very special, so full of fun, possibility thinking and ‘get up and go’. She welcomed me into her home and family, was a second grandparent to my children and has blessed my life in so many ways. Now 98, she is waiting ‘for the call up yonder’ as she puts it, a little confused at times, but her example, and touch on my life at important moments, has helped to make me who I am, and I will send flowers to her care-home this weekend.

How about you? How many ‘unsung heroes’ have you had in your life? A teacher? A neighbour? A mentor, a grandparent or even someone who has written something that has made a difference to you? Who will you be sending a note or some flowers to celebrate the joy they have brought to your life. Mother’s Day is a chance to say thank you – to Mothers – and to ‘Others!’

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Investing in the Few for the sake of the Many

I was discussing ‘summer camps’ for teenagers with a friend whose son leads a very prestigious camp. ‘They only work with private schools’ she said. ‘They reckon that even these days, statistics show that most leaders have a private educational background, and the camp vision is to invest in potential Christian leaders, and through them to bless the whole church.’

 I didn’t say so but it seemed unfair to me. After all Jesus didn’t look for 12 young men with immaculate backgrounds. The ‘band of brothers’ who formed his inner circle of twelve disciples were a very suspect group. An unscrupulous tax collector, an insurrectionist, someone who would betray him for a few gold coins, men with ambitions for themselves and fiery tempers when crossed … not very promising material .But he invested three years in these few men to whom he entrusted his message. If they weren’t effective in getting it out to the world when he had returned to his Father, there was no plan B.

And not only did Jesus invest in a few people, but he also knew what his mission was and when to say no. After an evening of healing people with many diseases and dealing with the demon possessed, the disciples assumed that he would continue to make the best of his popularity. But Jesus had other ideas. Mark 1:38

‘Let us go … to the nearby villages so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.‘

What are you investing in? How good are you at focusing on what you feel to be God’s calling on your life? Do you have a dream? Are you prepared to put in the time and the commitment to see it come to pass? As we move through life we sometimes have to make adjustments. In his book ‘Put Your Dream to the Test’ Dr John Maxwell writes:

‘Going after a dream is like climbing a mountain. We will never make it to the summit if we are carrying too much …As we enter each new phase of the climb, we face a decision. Do we take on more things to carry, or lay down things that won’t help us climb, exchange what we have for something else or stop climbing all together?

The writer to the Hebrews put it so well in ch.12 ‘Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’ It won’t necessarily be easy but there is joy in the offering. Just as the sun, focused through a magnifying glass, can start a tiny flame which can end up as a roaring inferno, so can our focused efforts.  And the key to success is to refuse to be distracted by the many things that clamour for our attention, and to fix our eyes on the One who has designed the race in the 1st place.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Nothing is wasted

I’m glad that I wasn’t born at a time when missionaries packed their belongings in coffins and had an average life-expectancy of 18 months ‘on the field.’ Would you … could you have sent your son or daughter to what seemed like certain death with a heart full of faith for what they would accomplish in that short time? As a mother of a missionary daughter I quail at the thought. Would I have gone myself … knowing that I was unlikely to come back? I hope so but …And yet some of these brave men and women achieved more for the Kingdom of heaven in those few short months than the rest of us do in a lifetime

Most of us will have read a lot about North Korea in recent weeks. It seems a very unattractive place to go now, and I suspect that the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ seemed equally unattractive to most people in the 1800’s. But not to Robert Thomas, a young Welsh missionary. His wife died in China as a result of a miscarriage, but rather than heading back to his native Wales in his grief, Robert was haunted by the needs of Korea. In 1865 he set sail for this spiritually unreached land, staying there for some months, before returning to China. I would have been deterred from the beginning by the fact that I had no written Christian material in the Korean language. Not Robert. He handed out tracts and New Testaments in Chinese.

 The Governor of the province, Pak Kyu Su, attacked the ship, and as the sailors fled from the boat, the Koreans killed them. Robert leaped from the boat carrying a Bible. "Jesus, Jesus!" he cried in Korean to the attackers, offering them the Bible. His head was whacked off with a stroke of a machete according to one account, but others think he pleaded for his life and was beaten to death.

Was it all a waste of a young man’s life? However he died, God worked in the heart of the man who killed him. Convinced by Robert's beaming face that he had killed a good man, he kept one of the Bibles, wallpapering his house with it. People came from far and near to read its words. A church grew. A nephew of Robert's killer became a pastor.

Today 40% of South Koreans are Christians and the nation has some of the largest congregations in the world. Even in the totalitarian regime in the North Korea, there are believed to be secret Christian believers, but they risk everything for their faith. If they are discovered, they are brutally punished unless they recant. In fact a recent report claims that when fugitive Christians who were hiding in ditches in the countryside were caught, they were run over by a steam roller, feet first. 

Today, those of us who reach out in faith to others, take little or no risk physically. But we can easily become discouraged and de-motivated when little seems to happen as a result of our efforts. It is then we need to remember what happened at the Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus took a very small amount of food, willingly offered, and multiplied it to feed a huge crowd. Even the broken pieces were worth collecting up at the end of this mass picnic. Jesus said’ Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ John 6:12

I love the words of the veteran missionary Amy Carmichael, who spent much of her ‘missionary’ work in India confined to bed. But her written words still resonate today:
“Our dear Lord cares for the broken pieces of our lives, the fragments of all we meant to do, the little we have .. to offer and he will use even these fragments. He will not let even the least of our little broken things be lost.”

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Only a boy called David

Only a boy called David

If you are of the generation who went to Sunday School you may have sung the chorus:
“Only a boy called David, only a babbling brook
only a boy called David, but five little stones he took.
One little stone went in the sling and the sling went round and round,
Round and round and round and round and round and round and round
 [this involved much arm waving, and if your neighbour got poked in the eye that just added to the fun!]
One little stone went up, up, up
And the Giant came tumbling down”

We've had one of those ‘ David and Goliath’ situations in our family recently. Having been brought up in Kenya, our grandson Cameron came back to England for ‘A’levels  two years ago and hopes to go to ‘uni’ this autumn. But university is expensive and his missionary parents don’t get a salary. So he desperately wanted a holiday job this summer. 40 CV’s distributed and numerous phone calls made and still a job seemed as far away as ever. He was willing to do ANYTHING, from working in Next, to grave digging!  I felt so burdened for him and prayed earnest ‘grandmotherly’ prayers for something … anything … that would lift the anxiety from his shoulders.

One morning the whisper came as I prayed. ‘What about Richard?’ Richard is a builder and did the conversion on our house four years ago. He is also a Christian.  He has a big job on this summer – a massive revamping of the inside of our church. Labourers are needed. Yesterday Cameron spent the day shifting bricks for Richard’s current project. He’s got the job! And not just any job.When his exams are over, he’ll be working with a team that shares his faith, and he’ll be helping to rebuild the church! And we will have the pleasure of his company for a couple of months – a rare and precious bonus for grandparents who have had to love this particular family of grandchildren from afar!

Another old chorus came to mind:

I will build my church
And the gates of hell
Shall not prevail against it.

All of us have to face our own 'Goliath of Gath' at times. But the words of David still ring true against the threats of Satan.  ' You come to me with sword,spear and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of heaven's Armies. 1 Samuel 17:45

He will build His church - we just have to go to him for the right ammunition.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Bars of Iron Can't stop Him

My current water walking adventure is centred on letting people know that  my book 'Its Just you and Me Lord' is being sold in Sam's Club. The motive behind this is to see the book in the hands of people who would never go into a Christian bookstore or order on line from the publisher.

When you look at it in the cold light of day, it seems a hopeless task – worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. I’ve never seen a Sam’s Club [we don’t have them in the UK] , but I gather that the goods are sold in warehouse type buildings and are stacked high so that sheer volume of sales will allow them to be sold at low prices.

‘How will a small gift book like ‘It’s Just You and Me Lord’ be found and make it’s mark in such surroundings?’ I ask myself in the middle of the night. I feel as hopeless as the disciple at the feeding of the 5,000, who said “We have only 5 loaves  .. and 2 fish … but what are these among so many?” But when they were handed to Jesus a miracle occurred.

I love the way that God speaks to us in our doubts and fears. Yesterday in Church, we had a reading from Is.45: 1 which seemed just for me:

 This is what the Lord says to his anointed … whose hand I take hold of … to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut;

I will give you the treasures of darkness
riches stored in secret places
so that you may know that I am the Lord
                                                 the God of Israel, who calls you by name.

These words were spoken to Cyrus, a pagan king who was being used for God's purposes. Without any disrespect to Sam's Club, it encourages me to think that God can use anything and anyone, for his purposes.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Water Walking for Beginners

Meet the Indalo man

I like the Indalo man. Discovered originally as a prehistoric wall painting in a cave, he has been adopted as the symbol of the Almeria province of Spain for the last hundred years. He is everywhere in that area. Painted on the wall of our hotel bedroom, he walked confidently over the waves, holding onto the rainbow arching over his head. I like him because he reminds me of Peter. Doing the impossible; walking on water and holding the promises of God in his hands.

During the next 6 weeks I’m going to do some water-walking. It’s not the 1st time, but I’ve never done anything quite like this before.

My new book 'It's Just you and Me Lord' will be in Sam's Club, in time for US Mother's Day, [May 12th] If I was in the US, I'd know what to do in order to make people aware that it can be bought from there. But from England I'm definitely working in the dark! Apparently it's considered quite a coup for it to be stocked by Sam’s Club, but I want to do my part to let people know it is there.

Why bother? Well it’s not to sell more books because they have taken a certain number and I don't suppose they'd re-order even if they sold out. But like Paul, I want to go ‘beyond the borders’ with my books, and get them into the hands of those to whom ‘God’ is just a vague idea.

With this as my goal, I’m praying for the hundreds of thousands of women in America, who would never go to a Christian bookstore or order a book directly from the publisher [ ] but who know about Sam's Club. This could be a very powerful opportunity to get ’It’s Just You and Me Lord’ into the hands of those for whom prayer is a mystery, and who have never thought that God wants to communicate with each one of us.

To make it fun, I’m asking people to take a photo of the book in Sam’s Club for which there will be PRIZES! More details soon. In the meantime:

If you live in America or have friends and family there could you let them know that ‘It’s Just You and Me Lord is available in Sam’s Club and would make a great gift? If you haven’t read it, Anne Bauman at Discovery House has 10 copies to give away – first come first served. email: with your postal address.

Do you have any networks through which you could spread the word? Your blog? Your Facebook page? A bible study group? A women's group in your church? This could make a tremendous difference, because publicity is mostly down to good old ‘word of mouth’. If each person who read this blog or the email I’ll be sending out, told five people and they in turn told five others – well do the maths!

I love the sign in the shop window which says:

‘We strive to do the impossible immediately. Miracles may take a little longer to achieve’!
This goal is beyond my powers to accomplish alone. Will you help to ‘achieve the miracle’?

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

What if ... I lit just one small candle

It's the second day of 2013, and it is DARK. We haven’t seen a glimmer of sunshine all day, just steady rain onto ground that is already saturated. Three days away from Epiphany,
the Christmas lights are still on display, and make a huge difference in weather like this. Flickering on and off along our fence, sparkling on the huge Christmas tree in the town centre, swaying gently from lampposts in the shape of Christmas stars and wise men. They’re very small individually, but together they show up better on this dark day, than they would if the sun was shining brightly

A New Year has begun.How do you FEEL as you look ahead? Are you excited by the plans you have for the coming 12 months? Does your calendar sparkle with possibilities? Is your world full of ‘sunshine’, with exciting plans for family, home and work? If you are a writer, have you got a list of contracted books and healthy advances or is this year promising to be dreary and dark with no ideas, rejected proposals or a manuscript which just isn’t working?

Some years ago, my husband and I were about to welcome a 10 year old into our home. Our older three children were away at university most of the time, we were already foster carers to her brother and sister, and the family with whom Gemma was living needed a break. So we’d said yes to ‘our’ children’s pleas to keep her in the family, but with a degree of apprehension. Life was very busy and she had a reputation for being a handful! A friend offered to stay in our house for the weekend and look after our family, while we had a brief break before the new adventure in parenting began.

Staying in Lincoln, a beautiful old city perched high on a hill, we wandered into the echoing spaces of the empty cathedral.’ Lord” I whispered under my breath ‘are we completely mad? How am I going to cope with six children coming and going? Was this idea really from You?’  Then, in a lady chapel, a huge modern candle stick, probably six feet high and at least 3 feet across confronted me. Around the rim was a circle of flickering tea lights, and the letters engraved upon it spelled out God’s answer. ‘The Lord will make us equal to the task’. We went home comforted and encouraged.

You may have heard of the words that King George quoted in his Christmas broadcast in 1939 as the world plunged into war :

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied, 'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!” ― Minnie Louise Haskins
I’m sure that Minnie Haskins never expected her words to be spoken by a king or echo down the generations, bringing comfort and hope to many. But she used her talents to do what she could, to bring God’s answer to a world in the grip of fear and darkness.
Whatever spiritual warfare we face in 2013,let’s remember that we  too can step forward with confidence, knowing that it is worth all the struggles we may face as we seek to share God's answers. One small light can make a difference, and that the Lord WILL make us ‘equal to the task.’